Meal Planning For Strength Training

Eating right is more crucial for weight training than any other form of exercise because weight training leads to maximum metabolic and biochemical changes in the body. For starters‚ there’s the fact that it utilizes the precious entity of muscle glycogen, which can take days to replenish itself. Then there’s the oxygen debt that needs to be repaid, which leads to accelerated fat metabolism up to 48 hours post-exercise. And last but not least, there is the free radical effect, the by-products of metabolism, basically chemically unstable molecules which can cause cellular damage, take the edge out of your exercise and even lead to aging. So before we get into meal planning, let’s look at the catabolic and anabolic process and hormonal changes that occur due to weight training.

Meal Planning For Strength Training
Meal Planning For Strength Training

Cortisol and InsulinBreak down and makeup

There are two hormones that are the cornerstones of meal plans before, during and after weight training. These are the catabolic hormone cortisol and the anabolic hormone insulin. Popular literature projects both as some sort of villain, but they are essential for weight training. Cortisol’s major function is to provide fuel for the working muscle group. However, post-exercise, if cortisol levels are not kept in check, then the entire anabolic (anti-aging) beneüt brought about by exercise is lost. Mindless training beyond an hour and improper meal planning post-exercise are the two main reasons that people ‘stagnate’ or ‘plateau’ in their workout routines. An elevated level of cortisol which prevents the re-synthesis of glycogen and. breaks down more protein than the body can repair brings about this plateau phenomenon and negates any benef1t that an exercise program can offer.

Immediately post-exercise, our muscle cells have heightened insulin sensitivity. This means that we have a brilliant window of opportunity for 45 minutes post-exercise, where we can push maximum nutrients into our muscle cells. A meal which comprises water, carbs, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals that leads to a surge in insulin levels can a) arrest muscle breakdown, b) increase the speed of glycogen re-synthesis, c) increase glucose uptake by the muscles, d) increase the muscle contractile protein which increases both size and strength of the muscle tissue, e) increase the blood flow to the muscles which improves both nutrient delivery as well as removal of waste like C02 and lactic acid from the muscles and f ) brings down the cortisol levels, thereby helping the body maintain its immune function.

With this understanding of cortisol and insulin, let’s look at the pre and post-workout meal options.

Also, Read How To Check Body Fat With Skinfold Caliper

Crunches before the party for that flat stomach

Now don’t tell me you haven’t tried this only to notice, much to your disappointment, that the stomach bulged out like a balloon out of your tight tee or LBD. So to ensure that this doesn’t happen at the next party, you crunched 500 times versus your usual 100, and that evening the stomach bulged out 500 times more. Finally, you gave up and didn’t do any crunches just before a party, and voila, the stomach looked flatter than ever. so, let me tell you why that happens. :

When there is tissue damage, Whether exercise-related or otherwise, the body’s acute inflammatory response gets activated. Within Hours of damage, special cells called neutrophils migrate to the site of damage (your abs in this case) and remove tissue debris. (The neutrophil response can last for Many hours post-exercise and is also considered one of the factors that lead to muscle soreness.) This process causes inflammation (bloating), swelling and further tissue damage. More crunches mean more tissue damage, which means more bloating and swelling, which in turn will cause more tissue damage. All in all, you are breaking more than you can repair, and all it leads to is a flabbier stomach. So don’t make ai big deal out of your stomach, just focus on the real DEAL- a wholesome Diet, Exercise and Lifestyle; the stomach will take care of itself.

Meal Planning For Strength Training
Meal Planning For Strength Training

Pre-and post-workout meals

Planning both pre-and post-exercise meals is critical to getting ‘results’ that sculpted look comes much more from what you eat before and after exercise than just exercise itself. So here goes:


A fruit (local, seasonal) is always a good option, especially if you are training first thing in the morning or leaving from Office and going to the gym before you head home. A gap of 15 to 20 minutes between the fruit and the warm-up set is all you need. If you are the type who goes to the gym post-breakfast or 1unch, then a gap of 60 to 100 minutes is good. Avoid meat before the workout as it is devoid of übre and takes longer to leave your GI tract than a vegetarian meal. Food in the stomach while exercising will restrict blood flow to the working muscle group, thereby reducing its ability to recruit optimum muscle, which will hamper the efficiency of the exercise. However, if you would like to add protein to your meals before working out, then just a wholesome meal of oats/what/whole grain/ rice-dal will do the trick, or you can even add 10g (half scoop) of whey protein with your fruit or meal.

Post-workout: A

post-workout meal is ideally something you carry to the gym and that you eat the minute you have cooled down. So you are most likely to finish with a single joint/small group exercise, then do your stretches, check that you have placed all dumbbells/barbells back on the rack and you are ready to eat.

There are 4 R’s of 3 post-workout meal that you must follow very strictly if you want to get the most out of your workout. The whole point of eating right before and after a workout is that you look ‘worked out’ when you are wearing your regular clothes, shirt-pant, salwar-kurta, jeans-tee shirt, saree, skirt-top, etc. Too often, in spite of ‘so much I workout’, all that shows in your regular clothes is a flat stomach and a flat butt and it’s only when you wear ‘workout clothes’, like a white tee shirt and shorts or black tights and bright pink tee, that people know that you gym. You can change that by just timing your meals right.

More and more research in sports nutrition is focused on how ‘timing’ of fuel (meals) affects performance. So not just the 4 R’s but also the 4 hours post-exercise is crucial to the glycogen replenishment that will take place in the muscle tissue. This will influence everything else involved, from the way you rebuild lost muscle tissue to the strength gains you make, the bone mineral density you build and the fat burning that you Will achieve and sustain. Pay close attention to this now:

Also, Read 4 Golden Rule For Gym Workout

The 4 R’s of post-workout nutrition

1.R-Rehydrate: Have a glass of water to quench your thirst, and then have another one. Remember that thirst is not a reliable signal during and post-exercise; the body is in a dehydrated condition post a workout, so even if there’s no thirst signal present or even if it vanishes after a sip of water, continue to drink. The water temperature can be room temperature or cool but never hot or warm.

2. R- Replenish: Eating & fruit like banana or having a boiled potato will replenish your glycogen stores and your blood sugar levels. The glycaemic index, digestibility, taste and potassium stores all go in favor of the banana and potato. They provide for a light, easy and healthy meal that can quickly replenish the glycogen stores without overloading the gastrointestinal system or disrupting the blood flow to the worked-out muscles.

3. R- Repair: A good protein shake made out of whey protein can provide the body with all the required amino acids to carry out its repair work and arrest further tissue damage. Whey protein is liquid in nature, with a ratio of essential to non-essential amino acids that makes it easy to digest and assimilate, and it can carry out its repair work without hampering the post-workout metabolic environment in the body. Whey protein scores on another count: in its levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAS). These are a group of three essential amino acids that are sacrif1ced or burnt down during periods of intense exercise or stress. This BCAAS also synthesizes the non-essential amino acid glutamine, which looks after the immune system in the body. When BCAAS gets broken down, the glutamine levels drop and with it, the body’s immune function takes & beating. The BCAAS along with glutamine and other essential amino acids also work at keeping the insulin-sensitive and allow the body to improve its fat-burning response. (More about Whey protein shakes at the end of the chapter.)

4.R- Recover: The free radicals generated during exercise (or any physical activity) are chemically unstable and cause a lot of damage that can come in the way of the body’s recovery from exercise. Antioxidants are basically molecules that can donate an electron to these free radicals and stop them from further oxidation or breakdown. Most vitamins like C, E, A and. minerals like selenium, zinc, and chromium are well known for their antioxidant effect. What’s more, selenium, zinc and chromium work at keeping the insulin efücient, even mimicking the insulin response and aiding the body’s recovery from exercise. This obviously then is the time that your body is most primed to make use of your antioxidant / anti-aging / skin hair-nail supplements. Even if you don’t have one by that name, just separate pills for vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene along With a mineral supplement for selenium, zinc and chromium Will do the trick and be less of a load on your wallet too.

Meal Planning For Strength Training
Meal Planning For Strength Training

The 4 R’s need to get done within the first 45 minutes after exercise actually better if you finish within the first 20 minutes only. I get all my clients who are beginners with weight training or those who come to me because they have plateaued, or the ones who have special needs like pregnancy, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, BP, etc. to finish the 4 R’s within the first 20 minutes itself. It’s only the experienced who actually have the option of eating within 45 minutes instead of 20 (although they are most likely to eat within the ürst 5 minutes). You see, post-exercise the blood glucose levels are low, actually, you are in a state of hypoglycemia and that is a precursor for high cortisol levels. I don’t like my clients roaming around on high cortisol levels that wipe out the anabolic effects of exercise. Moreover, the hypoglycemia, along with the natural surge in insulin levels, can lead to insulin insensitivity over a period of time. This means that just because you delayed your post-workout meal, you developed central obesity and eventually diabetes. That’s not what you worked out for, you can develop that even without exercise, so just time those meals right and have the 4 R’s immediately after working out.

The 4 hours post-exercise

After the 4 R’s, over the next 4 hours, the body will work at replenishing close to 80% of the glycogen stores, provided it gets the right nourishment. And no, it’s not complicated: just eating your regular oats/ whole grains/ rice /or curd will do the trick.

Your body is keen to make up for the lost glycogen stores and once it does that, its ability to repay the oxygen debt and carry out the repair work of the worn and tom muscle tissues gets easier and quicker. So if you are one of those carb avoiders, then you are gonna lose out on these benefits only to discover that the body is getting insulin insensitive which will tempt you to further reduce carbs which will further weaken the body’s glucose uptake and keep you fat. All in all, it’s a lose-lose situation.

Also, it will serve you well to remember that Indian meals, or for that matter any native meals where cuisines have evolved over centuries, cannot be broken down into carb, protein or fat as you learned in school. They are complex mixtures of all these nutrients and are primed to meet the body’s nutrient needs by pushing the right nutrient into the bloodstream. For example, rice is rich in BCAAS but you learned to classify it as ‘carbohydrate’ in school. Now your muscle cells don’t read that info you by-hearted in school, so when you eat rice post-workout, your body will look up the BCAA structure in them and put them to good use, making glutamine out of it and keeping your immune system from failing. Get it? (And single polished or hand-pounded Whitish rice is much better than brown rice)

Pre-workout meals
A gap of 20 minutes or less before a workout
A gap of 60-120 minutes before workout
-Homemade Breakfast
-Homemade lunch
-Grilled veg sandwich
How it helps
-Keep Blood Sugar stable during workout
-Blunt cortisol response during and post-exercise
-Allow a quicker delivery of glycogen to work for a muscle group
-Minimize muscle tissue damage
4 R’s post-exercise
(within 20, max 45 minutes)
-Banana/potato/seasonal fruit
-Protein shake(whey)
-Vitamin C, E, A, minerals- Se, Zn, Cr
-Makes up for fluid and electrolyte losses during a workout
-Replenishes glycogen stores and shifts metabolic machinery from catabolic to anabolic
-Reduce muscle damage and boost the immune system
-Speed up muscle and systemic recovery
-Speed up elimination of exercise by-products
4-hour post-workout
Wholesome meals after 1-hour of 4 R’s and every 2-hour after that
-Oats/whole grain/rice
-Maintained increased insulin sensitivity
-Sustain the anabolic state
-Prevent muscle breakdown and accelerates tissue repair
-Allow for maximum glycogen replenishment
-Repay 0xygen debt and clears out lactic acid
-Prevents and repairs or neurological damage or damage to motor neurons
-Speed up fat metabolism


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